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Free returns rise up shoppers’ priority list: study

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Shoppers are now more likely to return an item, and say that free returns are key to where they choose to buy in the first place, a new study suggests.

The report, Rethinking Returns 2: The Norm that’s Here to Stay, from Klarna, found 86% of shoppers said they would be more likely to return to a retail website if it offered free returns, while 84% said they would stay away if they had a poor returns experience – and 62% say they just won’t buy from a retailer that doesn’t offer free returns.

The study questioned 2,000 UK consumers and found that 82% of shoppers said that returns were now a normal part of online shopping. Three quarters (75%) said easy returns were key when they decided where to buy, while slightly more (78%) said they would buy more with a retailer over time if returns were free. 

Some 84% of shoppers said they wanted to be able to choose whether to return an item to the store or via post or a pick-up while 31% said they would be more likely to buy online if they could pay for it after trying it at home. 

Luke Griffiths, UK general manager at Klarna, said: “It’s no secret that for retailers, returns can be difficult to manage and there is a common misconception that they’re bad for business. But retailers who aren’t prioritising their returns processes are damaging their business – losing sales, and eroding customer loyalty.

“By embracing returns as a competitive differentiator, online retailers can stand out from the crowd with “pay after delivery’ – allowing their customers to turn their sitting room into a fitting room. Over a quarter of respondents (26%) said this would make them trust a retailer more and 63% said it would encourage them to keep more items, helping build a relationship with customers and secure long-term loyalty.”

The research also found that consumers were returning 14% more items than they were in 2017 – and that was often because of the gap between what they saw online and what they received. More than a quarter (26%) of consumers questioned said in 2019 that they had returned a faulty item, up from 12% in 2017. The number returning items because of poorer than expected quality rose to 22% from 6% in 2017, while 27% returned items because the fit wasn’t right.  Those making returns because the product looked different online rose to 19% from 8% in 2017.

Commenting, Paul Masters, COO of InTheStyle said: “Many of our customers are frequent buyers and like to experiment with different looks and sizes at home, particularly with our new collections. So, as with all e-comm fashion businesses, we’ve built returns into our core business model.”

Tim Robinson, chief executive at Doddle, said: “Returns are a huge headache for retailers but they’re not going away.  For many online shoppers, they’re a right and necessity – the online equivalent of the pile of clothes you used to hand back to the shopping room assistant in store.

“As a retailer, once you take this as the context, the focus changes. Returns become just another cost in the online supply chain, like packaging or shipping costs, and rather than being a problem that needs to be solved the focus turns to optimisation and efficiency.”

Image: Fotolia

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